Granite Run Mall representatives were present at the meeting on Monday to provide an update on renovations and future plans for the mall.
On April 1, Madison Marquette, a Washington D.C. based investor, developer and operator of retail space, from Simon Property Group. Previous to the change in management, the high vacancy rate and general disrepair led to .
"As you all know, to some extent the mall had been neglected by past management—and we'll leave it at that," General Manager of Granite Run Mall Bill Leppert said. "We have a different direction and hopes, and over the past few months we've begun implementing some of the steps we've been talking about."
Many visitors to the mall in recent months have noticed a number of exterior and interior renovations that have been implemented since April 1.
Outside updates include new landscaping and flowers, parking lot and curb repairs, sewage drain cleaning, tree clean up, and Oriole Avenue. fence repair. Management has also stepped up mall security.
Landscaping within the mall has been another change. The fountains at Center Court have been restarted, more lighting has been installed in several parts of the mall, and a new housekeeping service has been contracted.
Madison Marquette has spent more than $1 million on physical plan improvements to date, according to Senior Vice President of Madison Marquette John-david W. Franklin.
"We're pretty happy with what's happened in the first three months," Leppert said, also noting that tenant morale has improved. (Patch in mid-April who also noted the improvements.)
Council Vice Chairwoman Lorraine Bradshaw agreed.
"I've been shopping [at Granite Run Mall recently] and it was a very pleasant experience," she said. "It's such a pleasure to be able to shop locally."
More to Come
More exterior and interior renovations are planned for the months ahead, Leppert said.
A lighting analysis is underway to determine how the mall might go more green and energy-efficient, while also providing better lighting. Other soon-to-come improvements are the repainting and rebranding of the entrances to make them look more modern and appealing, makeovers of some of the vacancies by a design team, and new security cameras inside and outside, which should be up by Sept. 1, Leppert said.
When asked if Madison Marquette would retain any of the previous owners' $40 million plan for mall improvement, Franklin said mall representatives would return in October with a more solid plan.
"It probably won't be as grandiose as the original plan, but it will be a substantial improvement and investment," he said. "… In three to six months, we'll be able to talk more about those plans, but right now it's about solving the vacancy issue. Would we like to do a 12-screen theater? Yes. A health club, things like that? Absolutely."
"Of course, the big thing is getting more stores in there, and that takes some time," Leppert said.
If You Build It...
When Madison Marquette took over management on April 1, approximately 65 percent of store space was occupied, and that number is about the same now, Leppert said. By mid-October, he expects the occupancy rate to be in the low 70s.
"The leasing team has been very aggressive in these three months, but as you know it takes time to put these things together," Leppert said.
One new store opening and two relocations and expansions have occured since May at the mall. Sun Buffet opened in May and Blessed Hands Bridal and Showcase Comics had store relocations and expansions in early July.
Habitat for Humanity and Aurora Café are scheduled to open in August.
Mall management has been in contact with local, regional and national businesses as potential tenants, and changes will be visible in fall and early 2012. Names of the companies cannot be provided at this time for legal reasons, Leppert said.
Another big attraction, , is scheduled to open in the fall. The work is underway, with plans expected from the design team by the end of this week or next week, Director of Marketing at Granite Run Mall Aubrey Proud said.
Current plans include a tropical rainforest, a "Dino Dig Pit," and at least one if not two "real life" dinosaurs. Ticketing may be done Disney World-style, with ticketed times if the line is long.
"We're here to stay: put all rumors to rest," Proud said. "We hope you'll see that the work we've done in first few months proved that point and there's more to come."